If, in 100 years, an anthropologist unearthed Shalimar Production’s stirring, which (for those of us in the present) includes speed dating after select performances, it would provide a snapshot of what life is like for trendy 20-something New Yorkers living in Williamsburg and the East Village, looking for love. In addition to insights into the perks and perils of internet dating, he or she would get a good sense of what bands were hot on the indie scene and what kinds of clothes and hairstyles you needed to be considered cool. Watching stirring feels like opening a time capsule too soon: It’s full of witty, sharp and observant references about being young and in New York, but lacks in substance.
Rachel Plotkin, Kim Gainer and Brandon Bales in stirring
Reviewed by Ilena George
Stirring follows seven characters searching for love online, focusing on the lives of James (Matt Bridges) and Sasha (Kim Gainer), an already established couple who are drifting apart and attempting to find solace with others. Inspired by actual online personals, stirring feels like a loosely connected series of worst case scenarios, chronicling all the things that can go wrong when you pursue someone over the internet.
During bouts of unnecessarily frenetic staging in an awkward space forcibly coerced into serving as a theater, Trip (Jack P. Dempsey) and Laura (Rachel Plotkin) explore their kinkier sides, Ryan (Brandon Bales) comes to terms with his sexuality after meeting Daniel (Joey Williamson) and Joy (Jen Taher) draws the short straw in the online dating lottery time and time again.
Discussed at length is how to present yourself online: how to structure a blog entry or a personal ad, what level of deception is acceptable or necessary. The wittiness of the writing and the cast’s energy generally compensates for the play’s thinness in plot and character development. The characters are hollow, without pasts or depth, embodying types just as easily identified by their costumes (designed by Ariella Beth Bowden) as what they say or do: the hipster in a monochromatic sweater, rectangular black glasses and Converse sneakers; the tech-savvy girl in boots and a dress with buttons down the front and a big thick belt; the sleazy guy with a shirt open one button too far. Yet the ensemble’s strong performances still invoke sympathy when dating turns disastrous.
To add an extra shot of self-awareness, after several of the performances, singles who attend the play are given the opportunity to meet through speed dating. One of the issues the play addresses is how difficult it is to make a connection and giving audience members a forum to attempt this is clever. But the appeal of internet dating partly lies in its anonymity, which speed dating cannot preserve. The night I attended there were so few males signed up that cast members were roped into it as well. However, it was much like the play itself: fun as long as you don’t think too hard or look too closely.
stirring by Shoshona Currier and Charles Forbes
Directed by Shoshona Currier
March 16th-25th, speed dating after 3/17, 3/24 (straight), 3/23 (gay, men only)
InterArt Annex, 500 W. 52nd Street
Tickets: $10, $20 for speed dating, www.theatermania.com
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.